'Charities are charged by the power of volunteers' This week, we sat down with Peter Grigg, Home-Start UK’s new CEO. Peter has had an extensive career within the third sector, spending the last ten years working specifically with family charities across the country. We decided to get to know Peter better by talking to him about what drives him to work for families and to join Home-Start UK … What attracted you to Home-Start? The thing that stood out for me was the power of the model. There’s something magical about the relatively simple idea of volunteers being invited into the homes of families just to be there and be supportive – with not all of the additional agendas that so much support can come with - that drew me to Home-Start. It feels quite centrally focused on people building relationships and helping to find the strengths that we all have as humans even when facing adversity. I read Margaret Harrison’s book about the early days of Home-Start and I loved reading it. There is a quote used a few times that resonated strongly with me. Margaret described the essence of Home-Start as ‘Humanity, Humility and Humour’ which not only captures the strength of the model but are also values that I associate with. Charities could all do with being more human sometimes, more humble and generous in terms of partnership working and I think it helps us all to find ways to enjoy what we’re doing, particularly when working in difficult areas. All in all, it feels natural to join Home-Start and, I hope, to continue building on the original vision of our founder. Margaret described the essence of Home-Start as ‘Humanity, Humility and Humour’ which not only captures the strength of the model but are also values that I associate with. What is it about volunteers being at the heart of Home-Start’s work that makes it unique? Charities are charged by the power of volunteers. This is no different with family support and there is something profound about a volunteer being there for a parent or family that’s struggling. To be there to listen, be helpful, be kind and offer support in a non-judgmental way at a time when our batteries are low and need a charge. Professionals, of course, have an important role to play too, but there is something magical about volunteers. They’re not being paid, they’re there because they care, want to give back, they want to help and this shines through. This doesn’t happen entirely by chance and Home-Starts across the UK are showing how good they are at doing this through strong training and a thoughtful matching process. What are your hopes for Home-Start? That’s a big question! I’m frustrated that the last decade felt a completely wasted one in so many ways for families, children and families sector. The fabric of support has been picked apart by austerity, squeezed funding and the changing nature of welfare. Everywhere you look, while demand is going up, resources are going down and we know that it is the most challenged families, under the most pressure, that bear the brunt of this! I hope that we can re-discover an optimism for families and the support on offer. Not to hark back to a world gone by, but to find new ways to meet the needs of families through local, community-based models of support. This is why I’m excited about Home-Start, and the chance to help shape a more optimistic vision for families over the next ten years. Nobody can do that like local charities can, and that is why the Home-Start network is so powerful, based in communities, that can be responsive to local needs, listen to what is needed across the UK. If you can pair the best of a local charity’s connection to its community alongside the potential influence of a national charity, then it can be a magic formula. 'There is something magical about volunteers' What excites you about working within the sector and supporting families? I have always been driven by a desire to help people in our communities whose needs are being overlooked. I guess that becoming a parent myself helped hammer home the realisation that parenting is tough and it can be hard to ask for help or even know that you need it! Being a parent is joyful of course, but it is easy to feel like you’re not doing the job properly or you should be doing something differently… It can be overwhelming. In these moments it is friends, family and a support network of trusted people around who you need to turn to – and that’s what Home-Start can offer so powerfully. What is your biggest achievement or something you’re most proud of from your career so far? I’m proud of a few things in my career. Early on, I secured £1million to set up a network for disadvantaged young entrepreneurs through Virgin Media - that was a great moment. At the Family and Parenting Institute, I helped get a ‘Family Test’ set up by the government and worked on improving policies around parental leave that helped parents. More recently, at The Children’s Society, I drove campaigns and policy work including a campaign that saw 100 councils exempt children leaving care from paying council tax, and strategy work driving innovation and service design work that included funding from the National Lottery for a major programme supporting young people being exploited by gangs into crimes such as county lines. But above projects, something that brings me the most pride is when I have helped create some space and encouragement for the next generation of leaders to develop. There’s something about that which always makes me proud that I’ve made a small impact on people who will achieve great things. After chatting over all things work-related, we wanted to ask Peter some quick-fire questions… Tea or Coffee?Coffee! Cats or Dogs?Cats Sweet or Savoury?Savoury Morning or Night?Night… maybe. Summer or Winter?Summer! Football or Rugby?Football… all the way!And who do you support?I’m a Tottenham fan. Fiction or Non-Fiction?Fiction, I think. I always pick up Non-Fiction because I feel like I should know more but end up taking too long to read books so return to fiction. First-ever job?My first ever job was, as a 16-year-old, was working for an electrical superstore called ‘PowerHouse’. A highlight of my career was chasing a shoplifter who had stolen a vacuum cleaner. I ran down Old Kent Road to get him to drop it. I came back to the shop with this Dyson vacuum cleaner above my head celebrating like it was the World Cup! If you could have any superpower, what would you have?Good question! I would love to be able to time travel, I think that would be so fascinating. Any secret talents?Well, they’re so secret, I’m not sure I’ve discovered them myself yet! I do like a bad pun and writing silly rhymes. I was telling Dad jokes before I was a dad and it’s only got worse since… And most importantly… Marmite, do you love it or hate it?I love marmite, a massive marmite fan! Could happily eat Marmite all day long. There has to be a corporate partnership we can pursue here we could call the project “Ma Might”. Sorry.